I was recently in the audience with 300 marketing professional and bore witness to a brief moment of unintended racism and some misogynistic comments. 300 people who I would like to work with some day. 300 people who I would like to have refer me clients. 300 people who I would like to reach out to when I look for work. 300 people who I would never again have the opportunity to make a first impression.
The moderator asked for questions from the audience and the usual awkward silence ensued.
I raised my hand for the mike. It sucked. My heart was pounding so loud it was hard to hear my own voice over the loud speakers.
I stood up and spoke what I hoped others were thinking. I tried to frame my comment in a way that acknowledged the offence but was not created to shame the speakers. I identified the moments of racism and misogyny then asked, "How do we, as marketers, make sure that our outreach efforts extend beyond our own bubble of existence?"
I believe strongly that marketers are the filter in which our world sees the world. We need to hold ourselves accountable--to recognize when previous accepted norms have become unwelcome.
The offence (Judge for yourself):
1. In a deck full of the inspirational images, the only image of a person of color was of a black guy smoking a giant joint (The slide was about smoking pot--so that part was relevant).
2. When asked about what advice the presenter would give to the political frontrunners, he said Hillary should be "Less shrill and start acting presidential." (I think there was an audible gasp in the room full of women)
The presenters were not bad guys. They didn't think their comments through, but they weren't on their way to a KKK meeting at Hooters. They just got caught up in their own myopic viewpoint. They were caught up in telling their own stories that they forgot to relate it to the rest of the world. That in itself is not a crime.
Also Know This About Me:
I don't subscribe to public shaming. I am strongly moved by Pastor Martin Niemoller's poem "First the Came" and later Goldman Environmental Prize winner Eric Carter's statement that if you see a problem and no one is doing anything about it... then you're elected. It is one of the ethos that fuels the fundamental drive that makes me, me. Still, speaking to those 300 people really sucked. I don't love to stir the shit and much prefer to effect the final product before the launch. I don't subscribe to public shaming.
Seven people--four men and three women--made a point to come up to me and say they were glad that I spoke up. I told them that their support was powerful because I felt very alone while speaking. To those of you who approached me, THANK YOU.